Norfolk man faces lengthy prison after pleading guilty to 96 child sex abuse charges

A man is facing a lengthy prison sentence after pleading guilty to 96 counts of child sexual abuse.

David Wilson, of Kirstead, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court on Monday.

It took a court clerk around 30 minutes to read all of the charges out to the 36-year-old and for him to enter guilty pleas to each in turn.

The offences included causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, causing a child to watch a sexual act, and arranging or facilitating the sexual exploitation of a child.

Wilson (pictured) also admitted making unwarranted demands for indecent images of a child with menace, threatening to post an indecent image on social media if they did not comply.

Judge Rupert Overbury adjourned the case for sentencing on January 12 to allow time for the Probation Service to prepare a report “to deal with dangerousness”.

He told Wilson: “You have been advised that you may receive an extended sentence.

“I would think that’s highly likely but I will listen to everything put before me very carefully.

“I won’t pre-judge anything at all.”

Wilson was remanded in custody, with details of the prosecution case to be opened at the sentencing hearing.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the offences which Wilson pleaded guilty to concerned 51 victims, all boys aged between four and 14 years old.

The agency said it has evidence of as many as 500 boys sending abuse material to Wilson, and of Wilson approaching more than 5,000 children globally.

The labourer created and used a series of fake social media identities, posing as a teenage girl to contact the victims online, the NCA said.

The agency said Wilson, using unregistered phones, sent sexual images of young women from the internet in exchange for the boys sending him videos and images of themselves.

He built up trust with his victims before blackmailing them into sending him more extreme footage of themselves – and in some cases, of them abusing younger siblings or friends.

On some occasions he then distributed the images to victims’ friends.

Such was the level of suffering Wilson inflicted, several children on the indictment spoke of wanting to end their lives, the agency said.

The offences were committed between May 2016 and April 2020.

Wilson is one of the most prolific child sexual abuse (CSA) offenders the NCA has ever investigated.

In June and July 2017, Facebook identified 20 accounts of boys ranging from 12 to 15 years old, who had sent indecent images of themselves to an account seemingly belonging to a 13-year-old girl.

The material was forwarded to the NCA for investigation by NCMEC – the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children – which receives industry referrals before disseminating them to law enforcement agencies to investigate.

The NCA uncovered key evidence against Wilson: IP addresses used to commit the offences resolved to his house; CCTV footage of him buying a top-up voucher for a phone number linked to one of the fake Facebook accounts; and when he was arrested in August 2017 the phone used to commit some of the offences was hidden in his bedroom.

He was released on bail for the investigation to continue.

The NCA uncovered a web of false social media identities he used to commit offences.

Wilson used consistent tradecraft to avoid detection.

NCA investigators used huge amounts of communication data to link the offending profiles and ultimately prove Wilson was responsible.

Between November 2017 and January 2018 NCMEC made dozens more referrals.

In all, Facebook material made up 90 referrals from NCMEC to the NCA.

Tony Cook, NCA head of CSA operations, said: “David Wilson is a prolific offender who has caused heart-breaking suffering to some of the boys and their families in this case.

“He was able to gain the boys’ trust and exploit their use of social media using well practiced techniques to convince them he was genuinely a young female who was interested in them.

“He then manipulated or forced them to send images of themselves or other children which he craved.

“He knew the anguish victims were suffering but ignored any pleas from them to stop until he got what he wanted from them.

“Wilson retained material the children had sent and used the threat of sharing it among their friends to control them.

“I commend the victims and their families for their bravery in helping the prosecution and our investigators for painstakingly and tenaciously proving Wilson was responsible.”

Rob Jones, NCA director of Threat Leadership, said: “This was a major investigation which has brought a very dangerous offender to justice.

“It’s chilling to think Wilson wouldn’t have been caught if Facebook had already implemented their end-to-end encryption plans which will entirely prevent access to message content.

“The NCA, wider law enforcement and child safety groups are clear that the move will turn the lights out for policing and effectively provide cover for offenders such as Wilson.”

Andy Burrows, NSPCC head of Child Safety Online Policy, said: “Wilson was a prolific offender who was exposed by the NCA for using social media to ruthlessly exploit children and subject them to untold harm.

“If it wasn’t for the evidence provided by Facebook, he might never have been brought to justice.

“Yet Facebook is still choosing to proceed with end-to-end encryption, despite knowing it will blindfold itself and prevent law enforcement from detecting serious and sustained online threats to children and allow more criminals like Wilson to use its platforms to commit child abuse.

“Compromising on children’s safety in this way is a stark choice to make, which is why the Government must introduce Online Harms legislation that levels the playing field for families, and that requires tech firms to put child protection at the heart of their product decisions.”

A Facebook spokesperson said: “Child exploitation and grooming have no place on our platforms.

“Facebook has led the industry in developing new ways to prevent, detect and respond to abuse and we will continue to work with law enforcement to combat criminal activity.

“End-to-end encryption is already the leading technology used by many services to keep people safe and we will build on our strong anti-abuse capabilities at WhatsApp when we roll it out on our other messaging services.

“For example, through a combination of advanced technology and user reports, WhatsApp bans around 250,000 accounts each month suspected of sharing child exploitative imagery.”

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